This is what I worked on, this evening. This is after Brendan's brother, Eamonn, is injured when the civil rights marchers are attacked at Burntollet Bridge and Brendan found him at Altnagelvin Hospital. Brendan's almost 13 years old at this point.
Father Pat drove me in his car but it was difficult. RUC checkpoints had gone up throughout Derry and barricades had been built around the Bogside to keep the constables out. The march had continued on and been attacked, again, on Irish Street, but they’d finally crossed the Carigavon and made it to the Guildhall. And that’s when people heard of the horrors that’d been inflicted. In fact, news of Burntollet crossed the globe and in their stupidity, the Loyalists couldn’t see what a damage they’d done to themselves. Not just in the eyes of Catholics in Ulster, but in the eyes of the world. Headlines and photographs of bleeding kids were splashed across the newspapers and the television news had footage of it all, despite occasions where news cameras were smashed in a foolish attempt to keep the attack undocumented. It did them no good, but arrogance breeds a certain blindness in people and it was in full force now, with the idiots insisting nothing had happened and what had happened was the fault of the marchers and no one else.
“It’s laughable,” said Father Pat, as we drove. “They can’t see that it’s the beginning of the end of their rule here and the start of a new order. Westminster won’t tolerate this, any longer. They’re too embarrassed by it all.”
He kept on and on about it, like he was pleased at what had happened, and finally I had to ask, “Did you expect this?”
“No, nothing like this,” he told me, absently.
He looked at me, finally taking notice of the question. “What’re you asking me, Brendan?”
“Did you know what would happen on the march?”
“Know? Of course not. Why would you ask such a thing?”
“But you suspected.”
“The leaders of the People’s Democracy march expected there to be some trouble along the way, as was made clear by those who opposed it. That is why they emphasized there was to be no retaliation by anyone on our side. They wanted the world to see we ask only for that which is guaranteed to all citizens in a democracy. But the actions of those people at Burntollet was inexcusable and completely unexpected.”
Was it? Something about the way he told me made it seem like all I was hearing were half-truths, and to me that was the same as lies. So I thought to ask him to lie about something else.
“Why was Father Demian sent off?”
He looked at me, taken aback. “What has that to do with the Loyalists -- ?”
“Was it something with Danny that got him sent away?”
Father Pat looked ahead and slowed down for the next checkpoint. “I was under the impression you were happy he’s gone -- Father Demian is gone.”
“I didn’t say I wasn’t. It just sudden-like, and I’m wondering why. I hear he was sent to America. To a place in the desert. Is it because he drank so much? Was he getting Danny Gallagher drunk, too?”
“You have no right to ask such questions. None of this is your business.”
He was right. It wasn’t. But his refusal to answer my questions told me the rumors I’d heard were right -- that it wasn't just drink but Father Demian had been sent to a place in America to make himself right, again. Right about what was unclear.
“You knew,” I said. “You let Eamonn and his mates walk into a trap.”
“That is a horrible thing to say to me, Brendan Kinsella! Why would I even think of doing such a thing?”
I couldn’t put it into words, yet, but I knew it had to do with the publicity of the attack and the world’s reaction. It’s like he wanted that but I couldn’t make the connection to understand why that would be such a good thing. Knowing what was happening in Derry and Belfast, knowing how close everyone was to betraying their neighbors and hurting each other and laughing about it in the most obscene way, knowing that people could have been killed not just at the bridge but around the Guildhall the night before, with the mob close to anger enough to commit slaughter and the RUC ready to crush anyone who even so much as looked at them wrong -- knowing all of that, he hadn’t expected something like the Loyalists putting deed to their loud threats? A man as smart as Father Pat? When even I could see what was coming and was afraid for it. And then his finely worded answers to Father Demian’s departure? I finally understood I could not trust anything he said to me.
Oh, I know I had suspicions and concerns before this, but it still was a shock to me. He’s one of the holy fathers. The direct representative of the Pope, the man who spoke to God. I’d taken communion from him and he’d said prayers with us and seen to it I was well cared for when I’d been in hospital, six months back. He was known by all in my neighborhood and loved and tended to by all the married ladies as well as a few unmarried and knew the bible from cover to cover -- and he was lying to me. And he knew what he told me was a lie; it was obviously so.
And what did it mean? If Eamonn had been killed, the bastard would have seen it as bad for my family, true, but also a good thing for the Republican cause.
My mind went blank, at that thought. I know we went through another RUC checkpoint after this one and had to get past a barricade put up by the local lads. I think I heard Colm calling to me, once. And we might have caught the tail end of a confrontation between constables and a few rock-throwers. But I swear, I cannot remember another honest thought in my head until he’d pulled up in front of my home and Mairead was at the car’s door, wiping her hands on a towel, her face white as a sheet.
“Brendan, are you all right?” she asked, her voice pitched high in near terror.
I smiled at her and said, “Never better.” Then I got out of the car, tossed a “Thanks, father,” over my shoulder and went into the house.
Rhuari and Caera met me, breathless. “Brendan, you’re home and safe.” Both of them saying the same thing, so much so you’d think them twins. “Mam’s been in a temper. She tore through your room, looking for something. What’s this all over you?”
“I’ll tell you all about it at supper, if you eat well.”
Mairead followed me in, saying, “We’re about to sit down. Just fish fingers and potato nuggets but -- .”
“Sounds brilliant,” I said, still smiling. “Is Terry unhurt?”
“A few bruises on his legs and back is all, but not for lack of trying on their part. He says there were B-Specials there. Wore regular clothes but had white armbands. And the RUC helped the bastards. Some had cudgels with nails in them. Nails!” I just nodded and started up the steps. Mairead stopped me. “Bren, that blood on you -- is Eamonn bad hurt?”
I smiled at her. “He’ll be fine. He got a nasty eye and his head’ll be bad for a fortnight, maybe, but he’ll be fine, again.” She looked closer at me, wary. “What?”
“There’s something different about you.”
“I don’t know. It’ just -- something’s not the same.”
“Let me wash up and change my clothes. And I’ll tell you everything at supper.” Well, not everything. But enough to make you happy. “Maybe that’ll explain it.”
She nodded and I went upstairs. And I told them most of my adventure. And moments after we finished the dishes we heard the first can lids clamoring a warning. The RUC was on its way, out to reassert their domination of the Bogside, and without question would do so in the most violent manner possible. Father Pat would be pleased.